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      An unusual family

      The DeYoung Family Zoo in Wallace is known for its interactivity and hands-on approach to raising wild animals in captivity. That's not the case, however, with one family of Siberian tigers being raised at the facility.

      The family unit of four is the exception to the rule about tigers in captivity--the adults are actually raising the cubs together with little interference from their human friends.

      "Just having the female having that natural instinct to nurture and take care of her cubs is a beautiful thing," said zoo director Carrie Cramer. "But to have a male actually interact and help the mother in rearing them is just unheard of."

      It's actually the first case in history where a captive male tiger has helped raise a litter, which is no small accomplishment for Bud DeYoung. He's been raising big cats for 25 years.

      "In the back of my mind, this is something that I always wanted to happen, but I never could believe it could happen because it's never happened anywhere else," said DeYoung.

      Normally, adult male tigers kill any of their young that they come across. Caesar, however, even shares his food with his offspring. The family has been closely monitored, but the cubs, who are now nearly six months old, are prospering in the company of their parents.

      DeYoung and Cramer are hopeful that their breakthrough will lead to bigger and better things for the endangered species. The zoo has always stressed the importance of animal conservation, but now they're looking at taking it one step further. They're hoping to eventually release the tiger cubs back into the wild.

      It's a process that will take time and patience.

      "Once they leave here, we have to have someone who is able to work with them, and it's a long process getting them used to more of a wild aspect," Cramer explained.

      It's a labor of love that DeYoung and Cramer are more than willing to take on.

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